Joey Hand ...
Joey Hand #27 DSTP Motorsports Toyota Swift 014.a
Joey Hand entered Saturday's Round 4 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca feeling like his car would race good enough to give him a shot at his first win since 2001. Once again, fate would have other plans for Hand as a first lap incident in Turn 6 ruined any chance to finish on the podium, much less win the race.
Although feeling better from a flu virus that had been troubling him since Thursday, Hand still felt lingering effects from the bug that also caught up to Michael Valiante and caused him to miss the race entirely. But Hand gutted out a fourth place qualifying spot on Saturday morning with a time of 1:17.616 seconds (103.803 mph). Although it was a personal best time for Hand and DSTP Motorsports at Laguna Seca, A.J. Allmendinger took the pole with a time of 1:16.986 seconds (104.653 mph). Allmendinger would be followed on the grid by Alex Figge, Ryan Dalziel, and Hand.
At the drop of the green flag, Allmendinger jumped out to the lead quickly as the field headed toward the first two turns, leaving Hand to fight with Figge for third as Dalziel followed Allmendinger out of the pack. After running side by side with Figge into the second turn, Hand dropped behind to follow, but as the pair hit turn six with Hand right on the gearbox of Figge, Hand's car pushed onto the rumble strips causing the car to break around and hit the inside wall with the rear of the car. The contact tore off of the back wing and severely damaged the front. Amazingly enough, Hand was able to drive the car to the pits where the DSTP team made frantic repairs that got Hand back in the race after dropping two laps down to the field.
Hand would re-enter the race in eleventh place and would pick up one more spot after Brian Sellers retired from the race with mechanical problems.
It was another disappointing result for DSTP Motorsports in the 2003 Championship. The Laguna result comes on the heels of a mechanical problem while leading in Mexico and two frustratingly long weekends in Long Beach and Milwaukee. But there is not much time to dwell on today's results as the schedule puts the Championship in Portland, Oregon next weekend for Round 5. The DSTP team hopes they can get the season back on track in the great Northwest where they had a successful test this past spring.
Hand on Saturday Qualifying:
"As far as we are concerned, that is the best the car has been. I think we got everything out of it in that session, but I feel there is defiantly more to come. We can make it better and go racing."
"The car is really good in traffic which is unusual for this place. If it stays like that, we should be in good shape for the race."
Hand on Saturday Race:
"Well, I can't blame the car this time, only the driver. The car seemed like it was going to be pretty good because you can kind of tell on the parade lap."
"I got inside of Alex Figge on the start and he pinched me really low down in Turn 1 and 2. I had to back out to save a crash right there. I decided to fall in behind him in fourth and try again later. I went into Turn 6 right behind him and it just took the air off of the front of the nose. I pushed wide onto the rumble strips dead center on the car and it bottomed out. It started turning left before that and I thought I could catch it, but the rumble strips took away my grip. I was along for the ride at that point."
"I was surprised it would still run after I hit the wall. I came in and the DSTP guys did a great job of getting it back together so I could try and get a few more points. But ultimately the moral of the story is the car was good, the driver was not."
"I feel sorry for the team, but we are all in this together. We'll try again in Portland. We have to start somewhere."
Through DSTP Motorsports, Dede Rogers has established herself as a true believer in promoting talented young American drivers into professional racing. Formed in 1994, DSTP first campaigned a team in the Dodge Shelby Pro Series before moving into the U.S. F2000 National Championship in 1995. Such notable drivers as Memo Gidley, Alex Barron, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Jerry Nadeau competed in cars fielded by DSTP before Buddy Rice swept to the Atlantic title during DSTP Motorsports first season in the series in 2000.